With organic shapes and a saturated color palette, the works of Leo Orta, a young French designer, weave the visual boundaries of art and design. It is from this technical and conceptual particularity, oscillating between art and design, that Orta’s works emerge in the collectible design scene. His unique pieces have a handcrafted approach aimed at exploring social issues, ranging from sculpture and installations to painting and performance. Collater.al decided to meet Leo Orta to learn more about his work during an exclusive interview. Below, we will learn more about the French designer and in particular some trivia about his latest solo exhibition “Day Dream,” which opened in Beijing at Room 6×8 gallery last June.
Leo Orta is a designer of Anglo-Argentinian origin, living in France and working in Seine et Marne. “I am a curator, visual artist and designer, I studied in the Netherlands at the Design Academy in Eindhoven and now I am back in France where I live and work,” he tells us.
With OrtaMiklos – the creative duo you were part of – you used to call your creative process as “ignorant design,” forcing your work to be unaware of current trends, such as themes, colors or material values. What did this lead to?
My former duo OrtaMiklos was born from the idea of challenging the boundaries between art and design. We used the notion of guerrilla marketing or guerrilla performance to integrate these fair or design week systems. One of the ideas we had around objects was to break down the boundaries between noble and poor, and the materials around them. We were looking for all the objects that could end up in landfills, that could end up against our possessions, against what we wanted, and to transform them in a way that could be totally punk. In this way we introduced these materials into an internal environment, or rather, into spaces that would allow for discussion and theory around certain objects. We thought of ourselves as ignorant, leaving learning aside, but keeping our know-how to juxtapose all our knowledge and be able to build things that were not influenced by our surroundings. We did not follow the idea of trends, we liked to experiment, make and produce, without asking ourselves too many questions at first. Only later did we start to think about all this.
What path did your research take after the dissolution of OrtaMiklos in 2021? Do you still follow the same line?
At the time of the disbanding of OrtaMiklos, it was necessary for us to be able to detach ourselves a bit from our aesthetic. On the other hand, it is not necessarily something easy to do. It’s a years-long research, so it’s something that takes its time and evolves as new research needs to be done. And for me it has been very important in this new research to place ourselves individually, to go much more into the theoretical and conceptual through these new works. This is what will determine in me a new aesthetic and new languages that will stand out. On the other hand, there will always be a part of the OrtaMiklos aesthetic in my work. This is to say that we have been a duo for 6 years and these 6 years will be reflected in the next ten years maybe or the next five years. They have nicked me, in other words it is impossible to do without it. On the contrary, you have to embrace it.
We noticed that your pieces have been in dialogue with dancer Léo Walk during a performance. Why did you choose to link design to performance art?
The collaborative work with Leo Walk began with the residency we had established with the “la totale” collective in the summer of 2019. Leo Walk was invited with the Marche Bleue to come and create spontaneous performances to share the spirit of the Moulin de Sainte Marie, its community, and it was from this connection that the ideas for the collaborations and performances that subsequently took place between Leo and me were born. One of the big things that pushed me toward this collaboration was the inspiration I drew from the movement that John Cage, Robert Rauschenberg, and Merce Cunningham created around spontaneous performances of their choreography and pieces. I wanted to pursue this idea in the same way Maurice Béjart had done with the sculptor Marta Pan. I saw in these collaborative works a real tool and a real way of expression. That is why I wanted to continue with Leo Walk and why we will continue to experiment with future projects. Inchallah!
Congratulations on your latest exhibition in Asia, in China specifically. This is not the first time you’ve exhibited in Asia, how is your research received by this audience, which undoubtedly has a different visual culture from Western audiences?
The “Day Dream” exhibition that opened in Beijing in the Room 6×8 gallery is for me a whole notion that brings together conceptual interest, theoretical interest and also the “surrealism” that I can bring to the work and it is this notion that I think appeals in Asia, that appeals especially in China. It’s a notion that follows the whole radical Italian design movement and the Dutch conceptual movement, and it’s this notion of a new generation that perhaps fits their interests and that today, thanks to social networks, travels enormously and can be of interest to these people who are on networks other than We Chat. For me, there are a large number of people in China who are interested in this movement, whether it is in design or art, who have studied a lot, who have traveled a lot abroad to the best schools in the United States, England or even the Netherlands, and who are now back in China and are able to share this sensibility. For me, the sensibility is always the same, the work that I do travels quite rapidly internationally, whether it’s in the United States, Europe or Asia, and that’s what allows this sensibility to spread in the work.
Courtesy Leo Orta